Men may actually develop more severe symptoms than women after they catch the flu virus, a new medical review finds.
The reason for this, according to the review, is that men's immune system may not respond properly to the virus compared to women.
What Is Man Flu?
Man flu refers to the idea that men tend to overreact or exaggerate the severity of their symptoms when they have a minor cold from a flu infection. The term is commonly used in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and in other cultures as well.
Until now, there hasn't been any medical review that shows whether this idea is truthful or not. However, in a new review published in The British Medical Journal, Dr. Kyle Sue decided to delve deeper into the scientific literature in order to find out the truth of this matter and the reasons behind it. Sue is the author of the review and a clinical assistant professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.
What Does The Scientific Literature Say?
Sue said that there is a reason why adult men complain when they become sick from the common cold. The reason is they may have a weaker immune response to the virus compared to women.
The author of the study added that the body's immune response is how one's body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, and, other harmful substances. As a result, men may also develop more serious symptoms, which could lead to death.
In a 2008 study, researchers discovered that women have a stronger immune response to the flu vaccine compared to men. This means that their bodies can produce higher levels of antibodies against the virus in the vaccine.
Previous studies conducted in the United States and Hong Kong also suggest that men with the flu were more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die as a result of the infection in comparison with women.
Why Do Men Have Weaker Immune Response?
According to the review, it's unclear why men have a weaker immune response than women. However, it may be due to the fact that the female sex hormone can provide an effective defense against respiratory viruses.
Last year, researchers discovered that the hormone estrogen was able to reduce the levels of the flu virus in female human nasal cells, but not in male cells. In addition, previous studies have also shown that the hormone testosterone can bring down men's immune response to the flu virus.
Researchers believe that men's weaker immune response can be explained from an evolutionary perspective. One explanation suggests that the effects of testosterone may have exceeded the potential immunosuppressive effect of the hormone.
Sue noted, however, that more study is still required because some of the studies in the review did not take into account other factors such as tobacco smoking.